Guys, such a busy week! My kid brother got engaged to a fabulous gal (!!!), I have some very special family visiting me since there's no school until Tuesday and not to mention Valentine's Day (my sweet husband's birthday) and I caught up with a dear friend. Additionally, I have been working behind the scenes this week to fix some issues I see around fulfillment -- these changes you guys are going to love. I cannot wait to share them with you!!! I will give you a little spoiler -- we're going to start incorporating professional waterproof ID stakes. Not just any ID stakes, these will have our SKUs on them and you can search the original listing in our database with this number at any time for records of your purchase (i.e. original listing date, plant care information, and these stakes will make reorders easier too). It's just been such a special week.
I have been so down since the start of the year and this week was just the pick up I needed. I hope you all had a good week too!
I think there's three of you left with open Hwaga orders I have not contacted yet, but I will get to you on Tuesday and we'll get those orders squared up next week. I'm really sorry about the delay on those. Thank you immensely to everyone who has managed to find it in their heart to be forgiving about the delay around the Hwaga plants. There's still some paperwork left over that I'm working my way through too, so if you haven't been contacted yet I promise correspondence is coming. Most of you that I contacted last week will notice the emails were coming over very late. I was working my way through our inbox until about 3 in the morning all last week.
I have been working on this blog post on and off this week too. I hope it's insightful and helpful to someone out there. And see you guys back in just a few weeks with fresh listings!
This blog post has been modified from its original posting to reflect the correct spelling of Anthocyanin (a 'replace all' mistake I made in Word). My studies are based only inside the Crassulaceae family, specifically, I am also basing our research off of what I see in-house with our stock and from communication I have with our farms, but I am obviously still learning :)
Rosey Pinks! Scarlett Reds! Rich Eggplants! We all love to make our succulents blush. But, what causes this spectacular array of colors… colder temps, right? Well, yes and no. We typically see our plants at their most vibrant colors in the winter, but did you know the temps are only part of the equation?
The way to keep your succulents looking their best all winter long is to give them adequate nutrition over the warmer months-- regular water offerings and fertilization during these active growth cycles. But the key to having the most dramatic rares in the winter is your lighting in the late summer weeks. And here's why…
It all comes down to a special chemical compound succulents make called anthocyanin. Crassulaceae produce different versions of this chemical year-round as a response to stress, but the colors this chemical produces is often most notable when there's a chill in the air. Anthocyanin is not only responsible for making your plant rich in color, it also protects your succulent in periods of stress -- such as colder temps, possible fungal infections, harsh lighting and periods of drought.
Anthocyanin production is at its highest starting in late summer. Your succulent utilizes this chemical to help prepare itself to weather the winter months. I like to think of it as a bear putting on some extra fluff to stay warm over the cold season, except with our plants we can't see what is happening underneath the surface.
Once your succulent has stored up active reserves of anthocyanin then temps start to play a major role. As the weather cools the chemical compound stabilizes (at the production levels established in late summer) and this is when the succulent puts on a dramatic show. In other words the more anthocyanin your plant produced and stored the more vibrant she will become.
Anthocyanin, generally speaking, is not stable in the succulents at warmer temps. In other words, you generally won't see the effects of this chemical during the summer, even as your plant is producing and storing it up in late summer and early autumn.
In the above photo you can see how this Japan Moon River is slowly starting to transform from green to lilac as a response to a drop in temperature.
This is neat, but how can I get the super, crazy colors?
Well, your plant is going to do most of that work for you, but understanding the anthocyanin production cycle is important because extra measures can be taken in autumn to increase anthocyanin reserves. Some species will retain more anthocyanin than others in its cellular system year round, it just depends on the species.
Let's start with spring… plants that are established in early spring will start to lose their rich, winter 'stress' colors (the reds, pinks and purples) as the temps start to increase. You can continue to enjoy the effects of the stress process for as long as your succulent maintains its rich colors -- water only when she looks thirsty, make sure she's in a fast draining medium, remember when she is showy, she's semi dormant so avoid organic medium and take care not to over water.
When these colors fade (you usually see color loss as temperatures creep due to the breakdown of anthocyanin) you know your succie is entering into a growth cycle, i.e. late spring/early summer. This is the best time to fertilize and add size and fullness to your plant. Remember to water her regularly through this period. Protect her from extreme heat and sun.
There is a second utilization of anthocyanin reserves can be seen at the height of summer, but it won't always produce the pretty colors because the effects of chemical compound changes in extreme heat.
Late summer and early autumn is when she will want your help to build her winter reserves of anthocyanin. When you notice the days getting milder, you can be sure your succulent friend has noticed too. And here is where you can help her to boost her production levels of anthocyanin... she'll crave full sun outside for a full eight hours a day (think fair temps and lots of light). If your collection lives indoors you can gently increase the UV levels starting in late August. The anthocyanin is a protective response specifically against UV light, similar to melanin response in human skin (i.e. getting a tan). This is a still a gradual process, just like the bear packing on the extra pounds before hibernation, and you won't see the reward for your efforts yet.
When the nights get crisp she will start to utilize her anthocyanin reserves to protect herself, which is when you will see her rich colors. This is worth repeating here, the more anthocyanin she has produced and stored in autumn the showier she will become when the temperature drops in the winter.
Quick Tip #1- The quickest way to lose the rich colors anthocyanin produces is an increase of temps, some research has shown at higher temps some plants convert this chemical back into a sugar, my theory is that it is a self-fertilization measure. So, if you want those rich winter colors start protecting your plant from elevated heat levels in September and she will thank you all winter long.
Quick Tip #2- The stress process can be artificially recreated by slowly dropping temps and increasing UV, but if your succulents live outside you should not attempt to stress your plants in the summer as that can be detrimental to the health of your plant over the winter and it will put the plant in a semi-dormant state for growth until the temps rise again. If you buy a stressed plant at the height of summer you should take measures to protect her from the elements in the winter, as it is likely she will not have time to rebuild her reserves of anthocyanin in time to protect herself and may be weakened over the colder months.
And more more little anecdote, there is another compound called carotenoid which produces yellow coloring (and oranges when anthocyanin is also present in sufficient amounts).
There's a lot more science behind this, but that was the easiest way for me to kind of share some of my research with you, without getting into the highly detailed specifics of CAM family photosynthesis. But as we continue on this journey together I will try to be a little better versed in this stuff and share what I can to help you keep your babies looking their best.
If you have learned something on this read please drop me a comment below, and if you have other tips to share by all means feel free to share below... And sign up for more blog posts like these by texting CCFBLOG to 555-888 (I didn't send out a text alert tonight because when I posted this it was so late, but I will send out notifications on future posts).